Liberty Isn't an American IdeaOct 19, 2021
Pageantry played out yesterday on millions of stages in the United States for one-day-only performances.
On lime lawns, lemon yellow Frisbees® sailed under robin-egg blue skies. On steaming gray asphalt polished black shoes marched in unison as band members sporting gold-braided uniforms executed well-rehearsed patriotic tunes. On faded decks cherry red grills charred pink beef and white chicken alongside pale yellow onions, green peppers, and speckled brats. Orange coolers displayed crystal ice, brown bottles, and confetti-colored cans. Pale feet dug into sparkling white sands. Children’s faces shone with remnants of strawberry ice cream, blue Popsicles®, and chocolate frosting. Laughter echoed through back yards, across lakes, and around picnic tables.
These shows all made possible by blood, sweat, and tears.
Other productions were more somber in tone. Prayer vigils, reading names, folding flags, and placing wreaths. Staking artificial flowers near headstones. Silence and soft whispers echoed through cemeteries.
Memorial Day is one of the few holidays in the United States not uniformly celebrated. For some it’s a day to clean out the garage, mow the grass, tackle the need-a-weekend-to-complete home improvement project. Or it’s an annual family campout. For others it’s a day to honor active, retired, and deceased military members and their families. Singles and families gather at grave sites to remember parents, spouses, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends who've completed life's Act One. Many combine these activities while some lament how there's little respect for the day’s meaning: remembering and honoring those who made the day worthy of singling out. But however one celebrates, or doesn't, we all need to remember:
Liberty isn’t an American idea.
America’s founders didn’t invent freedom; they codified it.
They had lived without it. Learned history’s lessons. Valued its importance. It wasn’t a universal belief in God that gave America its Christian roots. It was a majority understanding of God-established ideals for humanity which he endowed with “certain unalienable rights.” So clear, strong, unassailable, historically proven, timeless, and true were these rights they were “self-evident.”
One of the greatest losses in believing people evolved is we have no reason to value freedom. The logical conclusion of evolution is the highest value is efficiency. And if we’re honest, freedom isn’t the most “efficient” system of human organization.
But the cry of the human heart has never been “Efficiency!”
From the beginning people were designed to choose. Not in some theoretical, abstract, doesn’t-really-matter way. But in a it-matters-more-than-you-can-imagine manner. When God gave Adam and Eve a choice, he instituted the concept of freedom. And by making this choice have real consequences, he established the supreme importance of liberty.
Many Christians would answer the question, “What is God’s highest ideal?” with the word, “Salvation.” And to be free from the deception and bondage of sin -- as made possible by the blood, sweat, and tears of Christ -- is God's greatest desire. Yet I would suggest the highest ideal is freedom. Too often we Christians focus so exclusively on spiritual freedom we neglect earthly freedom. The latter is as much God's design as the former. And this is why advocating, advancing, and even fighting for freedom around the world isn’t about primarily about protecting America or promoting American ideas. Some (those living with the concept of free speech embedded into law) proclaim it’s arrogant to “export American democracy.” They miss the issue. What we celebrate on Memorial Day isn’t primarily about military service. Dictatorships have soldiers. It is liberty. And this is worth blood, sweat, and tears -- not because it’s an American idea.
Because it is a sacred ideal.
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